The Dysasters (The Dysasters #1)(2)

“And what am I supposed to do with that?” Her thick eyebrow lifted with the question.

“It’s research. For that science project you gave me. I chose weather patterns. All the other options were ridiculous, like breeding gnats. I’m not some insect sex voyeur, and no one wants more of those.”

“So you’ve been doing schoolwork?” Cora peered over each of her broad shoulders. “What did you do with my Foster? About this high,” she held up her hand until it encompassed Foster’s five-and-a-half-foot frame. “Bright red hair, and skin like a snowman’s. You seen her?” Her pearly teeth gleamed as she laughed.

“Very funny.” Foster flipped through the papers she’d printed at their last library stop. Red and orange blotches covered the Midwest’s weather map along with alarming statistics for the month’s tornado touchdowns and sightings. “I’m serious though. says some pretty scary stuff about the likelihood of a thunderstorm causing a tornado. Guess global warming is finally biting us in the ass.” A clap of thunder raised goose bumps on Foster’s arms. “Right on cue. Again. You can’t tell me that wasn’t totally freaky.” She shoved the papers into her bag and slung it over her arm. “We should go.”

Cora’s plump fingers feverishly worked over the keyboard.

“I heard thunder. Again. We need to leave. Come on.” Foster’s pleas remained unanswered. “Cora!” She stomped her foot, and a ring of dust sprayed out of the carpet, making her sneeze violently.

“Dammit! What, Foster? What do you want?” Cora’s bark intensified as thunder rolled overhead.

Foster sucked in a sharp breath, her demeanor hardening as she fought off the lump forming in the back of her throat. “Nothing.” Her voice was quieter than she wanted it to be. She cleared her throat before saying, “Never mind.”

Cora softened, and leaned across the table to grab Foster’s hand. She squeezed it gently before dropping it to rub the side of her neck. “I’m sorry. I’m stressed, and real tired of this ache in my neck. These motel pillows are wreaking havoc…” she trailed off, an expression passing over her features that Foster couldn’t quite read. “But I shouldn’t have yelled at you,” Cora continued, the spicy calmness returning to her voice, creamy and rich with a little kick, like Mexican hot chocolate. “You’re not from around here, and I understand you’re nervous. I grew up in Tornado Alley. Storms happen. Plus, it’s the end of August. Tornadoes in Missouri like spring and early summer more than late summer and fall. We’re safe.”


“Cross my heart. You know you’re my baby, and I’d never put you in danger.”

“Cora, I’m eighteen. You’ve got to stop calling me your baby.”

“Child, I don’t care if you’re eighty. You’ll always be my little strawberry baby.”

“Oh, god. Fine, call me baby, just don’t call me ‘little strawberry baby.’”

“We’ll see,” Cora muttered, already distracted by her computer again.

“I guess we’ll see’s better than ‘Child, I’ll call you my little strawberry baby till they put one of us in the grave.’” She mimicked Cora perfectly. “I’ll take what I can get.” Foster’s unease quieted and she slipped into the chair opposite the stout woman. Even though her gut was roiling in time with the approaching storm, Cora’s words soothed her. Her adoptive mother had never gone back on a promise. She’d been there for her since the day Foster was born, premature and on life support in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her birth parents had told her stories about her “aunt” Cora, the selfless nurse and hero who’d been there every day making sure she’d grow up healthy and strong. Foster’s heart squeezed with the memory of her parents. “Hang on, you said stressed. Why are you stressed?” she blurted, not wanting to think about the past any longer.

“Because if I’m right about who we’re meeting tonight, our whole world will change.”

“Wait, is this the guy? The one we’ve been searching for for the past year? You didn’t tell me you’d found him. Who is he? What’s his name?”

Ignoring the questions, Cora pointed to her suitcase. “Go over there and grab those two maroon sweatshirts.”

Foster trudged to the rusted luggage rack and unzipped the suitcase. She held up the thick sweatshirt and pointed to the gold lettering: HOMER HIGH SCHOOL PANTHERS. “I thought homeschooling was going fine. And I can learn a lot more from you than from a crappy backwoods public school. And I graduate this year.”

“Give it here.” Foster tossed Cora the sweatshirt, and she pulled it on before explaining. “You’re not going there. You’re just going there. Now put that one on. I don’t want to be late.”

Foster zipped the baggy sweatshirt up over her flannel and rolled up the bottom a few inches until the frayed edges of her shorts stuck out and she no longer looked half naked. “I look like a plum,” she grumbled, frowning at her reflection in the dusty mirror. “But at least I don’t have to go back to high school.” Not having to go back to a traditional school had been the only positive outcome of Doctor Rick’s untimely death. Cora wanted to finish his research and keep Foster close—something about the healing process that one of Cora’s doctor friends had told her. Whatever the reason, Foster didn’t care as long as she didn’t have to return to the mind-numbing day care they called public school.

P.C. Cast, Kristin C's Books